WSU graduate student showcases skin cancer research

Dr. Shobhan Gaddameedhi's lab groupSPOKANE, Wash.—Soumayadeep “Sam” Sarkar, a student in the pharmaceutical sciences Ph.D. program at Washington State University in Spokane, studies skin cancer.

Sarkar works in the research lab of Dr. Shobhan Gaddameedhi at the WSU College of Pharmacy where they study circadian regulation, which is the influence of the 24 hour cycle (circadian clock) on the physiological processes of living things. Sarkar is looking at the biology of cells called melanocytes that produce melanin, which gives skin, hair and eyes their color. He is trying to understand how disruption of the clock can influence the development of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

According to Gaddameedhi, who is the principle investigator on the project, understanding the mechanics of the clock influence on these types of cells will advance our ability to prevent DNA damage from solar UV-B light, premature aging caused by sun exposure, and cancer formation.

“At this point I am at the initial stages of my research and already it has been so fascinating. I plan to work on this topic for my Ph.D. thesis,” Sarkar said. His research is funded through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Sarkar presented his research related to skin cancer to the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society (EMGS) thanks to an EMGS Student and New Investigator Travel Award. Sarkar received a certificate and a check for $760 at an awards ceremony on September 12, at the 48th Annual Meeting of the EMGS in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“This is a merit-based award in recognition of the excellence of your research, your research progress, and your promise as a long-term contributor to research in topics related to the mission of EMGS,” wrote the EMGS awards and honors committee chair in a letter to Sarkar.

Providing networking and career development opportunities for students and postdoctoral level investigators through travel awards is one of the ways EMGS supports and promotes the advancement of knowledge surrounding DNA damage and repair and how it relates to disease.

“I was truly excited to know about the EMGS mission and goals, and how closely my project is related to it. I had amazing networking sessions with some of the most established and esteemed research scientists like Dr. Aziz Sancar (2015 noble laureate) and many more, which definitely motivated me,” Sarkar said.

Sarkar is from Indore, a city in west-central India. He completed a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in India and worked as a medical representative for Johnson & Johnson and then as a high school teacher. Sarkar attended Campbell University in North Carolina for a master’s degree in pharmacology, and he is currently in his second year in the pharmaceutical sciences Ph.D. program at WSU.

“Soon after I started my master’s at Campbell, I realized that I had an innate inclination towards pharmaceutical research,” Sarkar said. “I was really excited to see the diverse research opportunities provided in the Ph.D. program at WSU, among which many strongly aligned with my research interest.”

Sarkar is still undecided on where he wants to work after obtaining his Ph.D. “I don’t have sufficient data to make a decision,” he said with a laugh. “Attending meetings likes EMGS will help me get closer to the answer. In the future, I want to be involved in core fundamental and novel drug development research, where my training as a pharmacologist will help me.”

This is an example of how the WSU College of Pharmacy is providing a transformative student experience for its graduates while fulfilling our land-grant commitment to public service through addressing some of society’s critical problems, including the onset and progression of disease.

Pictured above left to right: Kenneth Porter, Shobhan Gaddameedhi, Panshak Dakup, Soumyadeep “Sam” Sarkar

[Lori J. Maricle] 9/29/17